Ludwig Minkus / Marius Petipa, Aleksandr Gorski, Alexei Fadeyechev

  • Act I

    45 min.

  • Intermission

    20 min.

  • Act II

    40 min.

  • Intermission

    20 min.

  • Act III

    ca. 35 min.

Duration: 2 h 40 min.

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Ballet in three acts
Libretto: Marius Petipa based on the novel by Miguel de Cervantes
World Premiere: 14/12/1869, Bolshoi Theatre, Moskow
Polish Premiere: 9/04/1964, Państwowa Opera, Warsaw
Premiere of this Version: 29/05/2014, Polish National Ballet
Co-production: Royal Ballet of Flanders, Antwerp

This is one of the most important ballets brought into being by Marius Petipa, the great French choreographer who is considered the father of classical ballet. He devised Don Quixote in 1869 for the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow and staged its revised version two years later at the Mariinsky in Saint Petersburg. It explores an episode from Miguel de Cervantes’s famous novel and draws on more than a hundred-year presence of the theme on European ballet stages. The score was written according to the choreographer’s instructions by Ludwig Minkus, Austrian violinist and ballet composer with long-standing links to Russia. Petipa’s work was complemented in 1900 with new sequences by Moscow-based choreographer Alexander Gorski. For this reason, they are now both listed as choreographers of the ballet.
Early European novel verged on loose storytelling, conjuring up a universal world encompassing the human experience as a whole. Miguel de Cervantes’s The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha (1605) is simple and sophisticated at the same time: the knight-errant goes from one adventure to another in a natural and organic manner. Transferring this universe into a different art form is an impossible task but you can draw different themes from it until the end of time.  
Don Quixote was one of Petipa and Minkus’s most successful collaborations (as was La bayadère).  There is not, however, much in it left of the original mock-heroic epic. The choreographer, who also penned the libretto, decided to focus on a secondary motif – the twists and turns of the love life of Kitri, an innkeeper’s daughter, and Basilio, a barber. In line with the audience’s expectations and the rules of the genre which stipulated that a ballet must, first and foremost, be entertaining, Don Quixote became stunning highly amusing spectacle. The knight-errant and his servant Sancho Panza connect one visually striking scene with another, each dazzling with its display of Petipa’s choreographic ideas, the magnificent Spanish flair in the dancers’ movements, and various dance feats.

In 2014 the Polish National Ballet put on a new, extremely vibrant choreographic version of Don Quixote by Russian-born and Finland-based dancer and balletmaster, Alexei Fadeyechev under the musical direction of prominent Ukrainian conductor Alexei Baklan. After a few-year hiatus, the production returns to our stage under the baton of Marta Kluczyńska.



Polish National Ballet
Orchestra of the Teatr Wielki  Polish National Opera

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    Don Quixote, having read his fill of romances about knights and chivalry, decides to set off on his travels in order to achieve great feats, which will bring glory to his name. As his sword-bearer, he chooses the loyal Sancho Panza, a man of sober outlook who is not prone to dreams.

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    Act I

    In Barcelona there is festive animation in the air. Kitri, daughter of the innkeeper, is flirting with Basilio, the barber, who is in love with her. Finding them together Lorenzo, Kitri’s father, chases Basilio away: the barber is no fit match for his daughter. Lorenzo intends Kitri to marry Gamache, a rich nobleman. Kitri refuses outright to submit to her father’s will.

    At the height of the merry-making, Don Quixote appears in the square, accompanied by his sword-bearer, Sancho Panza. Catching sight of the innkeeper, Don Quixote mistakes him for the owner of a knight’s castle and greets him with respect. Lorenzo responds in like terms and invites Don Quixote into the inn. Sancho Panza is left in the square. But when some young people start to mock Sancho, Don Quixote immediately hurries to his sword-bearer’s rescue.

    Seeing Kitri, Don Quixote thinks she is the beautiful Dulcinea whom he has seen in his dreams and chosen as ‘the lady of his heart’. But Kitri disappears. She has run off with Basilio. Lorenzo, Gamache and Don Quixote set out to look for her.

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    Act II

    Scene 1
    Kitri and Basilio are hiding in a tavern. Here they are found by Lorenzo, Gamache and Don Quixote. Lorenzo wishes to make an immediate announcement of the betrothal of Kitri and Gamache. But Basilio, by agreement with Kitri, pretends to take his life. Kitri sobs over the body of her sweetheart. Don Quixote, overcome by noble indignation, accuses Lorenzo of hardheartedness and, threatening him with his sword forces him to agree to his daughter’s marriage with the barber. Basilio jumps to his feet. There is no point in him pretending to be dead any longer.

    Scene 2 
    In the glade by the windmills is a sprawling gipsy encampment. Here too is a puppet theatre. Don Quixote and Sancho soon appear on the scene. The owner of the puppet theatre invites Don Quixote to watch a show. Don Quixote follows the performance with rapt attention and, forgetting it is theatre, rushes on to the stage, sword in hand, to defend those who need his protection. He breaks down the stage, sends the puppets flying and, catching sight of the windmills, mistakes them for evil magicians whom he has to get the better of. Grabbing a mill sail, he is first lifted into the air and then falls to the ground.

    Scene 3 
    The wounded Don Quixote and Sancho Panza find themselves in a forest. To Don Quixote, the forest seems to be full of monsters and giants. Sancho Panza settles Don Quixote down to sleep, while he runs off for help. In his dreams, Don Quixote sees Dulcinea, ‘the lady of his heart’, surrounded by dryads and fairies. Sancho Panza comes back with the Duke and Duchess who have been hunting in the forest. He begs them to help the dreaming Don Quixote. The Duke and Duchess invite the wandering knight to visit them in their castle.

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    Act III

    The Duke’s castle. All is ready for the reception of Don Quixote. Having heard from Sancho Panza the happy story of Kitri and Basilio’s love, the Duke and Duchess have kindly agreed to allow them to hold their wedding in the castle. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are invited to occupy the seats of honour. A solemn procession files past. Catching sight of Kitri, Don Quixote again mistakes her for ‘the lady of his reveries’. But the Duke and Sancho Panza manage to persuade him that she is the very same innkeeper’s daughter whom he helped to unite with Basilio, her sweetheart. The festivities continue. All thank the valiant knight and his faithful sword-bearer.


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